Suffering Mindsets: 3 No’s and a Yes
Sally tries to be calm when her sister calls. They have a history . . . . . It doesn’t take long for her sister to push Sally’s buttons, but she steels herself and remains calm. And then comes that familiar belittling comment, and Sally snaps. Another brutal conversation with her sister.
She wakes up at 2:30 in the morning and can’t stop rehashing the dialogue. She ping-pongs between feeling rage at her sister, and telling herself, “I have to let this go!” The next morning, she packs this pain into her briefcase and carries it to work, where it hovers over her all day.
Pain and suffering. They cling to us like that head cold that won’t relent. They dull and distract us like nothing else.
Certain ways of thinking expand our suffering. And there is one mind-shift that shrinks it down to a manageable size.
3 Mindsets to say “No” to
These three thought patterns Velcro pain and suffering to you:
- Comparative pain-ology: Comparing your pain to someone else’s almost always makes matters worse. Whether you feel you have more or less of it, focusing on other people’s problems distracts you from experiencing your own suffering genuinely.
- Suffering quicksand: When you find the suffering tape playing an endless loop in your brain, it’s a form of mental quicksand—the more you struggle the farther down you sink. Eventually it becomes a kind of paralysis.
- The detour: Prematurely running from your pain promises to make your suffering journey longer. As the saying goes, you can’t go around it; you’ve got to go through it.
Say “Yes” to this mindset
Catch and release: People who fish a lot practice catch and release. They bring into the boat what has been swimming in the depths, they appreciate it, and then they let it go.
Whether your suffering is brought on by what you do or say, or it comes to you out of nowhere, it’s important to reel it in and appreciate it.
Sally’s reflex was to berate herself for suffering, and this brought on the quicksand. At first, my invitation to care for herself in her suffering was unimaginable. The longer she stayed with the thought, the lighter she became.
Sally learned that suffering needs to be honored, not worshiped and not avoided. She discovered that painful suffering is packed with lessons when it’s caught and released.
An invitation for you
The next time you find yourself weighed down by suffering, hold it close for a time, and ask it what it is here to teach you. And, then (here’s the key) cradle yourself kindly. In that tender embrace your pain will start to shrink, if not slip away altogether.